Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Investing in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health – the Case for Asia and the Pacific

3 May 2009

On 3 May 2009 in Bali, Indonesia, a new report was launched by the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Network for Asia and the Pacific, alongside the Annual General Meeting of the Asian Development Bank. The report outlines the key reasons to invest in the health of mothers, newborns and children in the region, and emphasizes the relationship between economics, financing and public expenditure, and poor and inequitable health outcomes.

The report was developed by experts from a group of ten organizations working in the field: Asian Development Bank; AusAID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Japan International Cooperation Agency; Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH); UNFPA; UNICEF; USAID, World Bank, and WHO.

The authors stress that, at this time of financial crisis, fiscal measures to stimulate the economy must include significant and sustained funding to improve the health of mothers, newborns and children. In addition, they propose the following:

  • There is an urgent need to accelerate progress in the region on MDGs 4 and 5 -- reducing maternal and child mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health;
  • The report describes the problems that countries in Asia and the Pacific are facing in the area of maternal, newborn and child health, and recommends practical steps for tackling them, based on the best-available evidence;
  • It provides detailed cost estimates, which show that at least US$15 billion in additional resources are needed by 2015 in order to achieve MDGs 4 and 5; and
  • The report demonstrates how governments and development partners have an opportunity to protect the poor, strengthen fragile health systems, and invest in long-term social and economic growth and social and political stability.

The "Investment Case" also highlights the fact that many of the interventions needed to improve maternal, newborn and child health in the region are simple and extremely cost-effective, such as basic family planning, antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, and the prevention and management of common illnesses among for newborns and children.

Many factors contribute to poor health outcomes in Asia and the Pacific, including class, caste, custom, poverty and illiteracy. But expenditure on essential health care is an important part of the explanation. Spending on maternal, newborn and child health in the region must not only be increased, but also improved. The report suggests five main steps to be taken by governments and their development partners: 1) increase spending, 2) increase efficiency, 3) increase equity, 4) consider incentives, and 5) integrate programmes into national plans.

"Investing in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health – the Case for Asia and the Pacific" makes a strong case for investment, combining the best available science and economics with evidence about what works in practice. It presents the investment options clearly, suggesting Core, Expanded and Comprehensive intervention packages, and giving additional costs per capita for each. It also identifies ‘best buys’ that take account of local problems, priorities and costs.